How I Was Able To Minimize Decision Fatigue Using The Decision Deadline Technique

Sylvia Plath made one of the most accurate descriptions of decision fatigue and its jarring effects ever written. She put it this way:

“I saw myself sitting at the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of these figs I would choose. I wanted each and everyone of them, but choosing one meant losing the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs begun to wrinkle and go black, and one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

Everyday of my last semester of college felt like I was endlessly staring at the fig tree, going through my options again and again and again but never quite being able to make a decision. When college was over, it felt as if the clock was soon going to stop and the decision would be made for me.

It was both a terrifying and relieving thought. Terrifying because I wanted to be in control of what happened to me but relieving because I felt it was the only way to still the never ending grinding and calculations in mind.

Immediately after my final exam I had to chose whether to move back home with parents in a different state or keep my apartment and try to make it work in the big city. I knew either choice would take my life on a completely different trajectory. 

Then I had to choose whether I would take the high paying job that had nothing to do with my major or the unpaid internship that would look great on my resume. I had bills to pay, but I wanted to eventually get a good job in my area of specialization... right?

I had a law degree and wanted to wear fancy suits and save lives. I had always been a writer and cherished ideas of being published young. I wanted to make lots of money to give and to travel. I wanted to become an actress and pretend for a living.

I had to analyze every purchase if I could afford it. Spent hours figuring out what to eat, what to watch, if I was going out with friends or staying in, pick a good excuse for ditching my friends and staying in. I was exhausted and so begun the decline that ended in me quitting my job too soon. I became less decisive and more impulsive.

Decision fatigue is a reality that most students face in their final year of college or in the first year after college. The world really is your oyster but that only means there is a lot to choose from, too much. The options are endless but each of them come at cost. 

You would like to take a year and travel but your contemporaries are getting their lives figured out. If you stay and join the work force, you may never have the time to travel with as little cares again.

I realized a little too late that I did not need to have it all figured out that first year. That I was allowed a couple of mistakes and that God would offer me numerous other opportunities in my twenties to reset and dig myself out of ditches. I wish I had had the patience to stick out the hard times and not quit on as many jobs and projects as I did looking for what felt like destiny.

For the new college graduate, do not feel overwhelmed about how the rest of your life is going to look or where you are going to live or how you are ever going to lose that post grad weight. Have a little faith.

I have a new way of making decisions now. I call it the Decision Deadline Technique. I set a decision deadline, I make a list of pros and cons, I ask for advise and do my research, I pray, and I make a decision before the deadline.

I am allowed to change my mind but not more than twice. Then I stick with it. When new obstacles emerge, I do not regret my decision and spend hours thinking about switching, I look for solutions. 

I have made a lot of bad turns since finishing college a year and a half ago despite overthinking my every move.

Then one day I stopped having fatalistic thoughts. The decisions I was making, no matter how crucial, were not all or nothing. Each path that stood before me was going to have challenges and was going to be adjustable.

Nothing in this world is guaranteed. When you finish college, you spend a lot of time trying to figure out the safest route to success. You spend days, months even years trying to find that one path that is sure to lead you to happiness.

Here’s the kicker, it does not exist. Every road will be hard but as long as you come ready to fight for joy, ready to work hard and live generously, you will get there.